Food & Wine

Easy entertaining: how to create an Irish cheeseboard fit for any festive gathering

A cheeseboard is such a wonderful and convenient course over the Christmas season. Serve your festive cheeseboard as part of a large party spread, or make it the meal itself when visitors pop by. Partner content with Dunnes Stores Simply Better

The perfect cheeseboard features a mix of hard and soft cheeses, with Irish cheesemakers providing all the flavours you need this festive season

We all have visitors to our homes over Christmas, and it can be arduous to have food prepared, especially when the callers are unannounced. Cheese is the perfect food for these occasions. It is easy to put together in minutes and some simple steps can make it a spread to impress.

When is best to serve a cheeseboard?

If you are serving a cheeseboard at the end of a meal you can enjoy it before dessert - in the French tradition - or after dessert. Having the cheese before dessert allows you to enjoy the wines you had with the meal with your cheeses before moving onto something sweeter. Serving after dessert allows a little stretch, a loosening of the belts and the conversation to continue while enjoying the many flavours and textures. You may even open another bottle of wine, or discover is is the perfect time to bring out the Port, sherry or sweet wine. And don’t forget – a cheeseboard provides a savoury alternative to festive sweets and chocolates, making it the perfect partner when settling down for a family Christmas movie.

Which cheese should I choose?

Choose cheeses with a variety of flavours and textures; this makes the selection much more interesting and also ensures that there is something for most people’s taste. When making your selection think about having a soft cheese such as a camembert or brie style, a blue cheese, something firm like a cheddar or comté and then if you would like additional ones perhaps a goat’s cheese, a semi-soft and something with added flavour such as a smoked cheese. Serve at least three cheeses, but limit to six, as above this number can lead to waste and some confusion.

How much cheese do I need?

When judging quantities needed it really depends on your love of cheese and appetite. A good rule is 100g per person. If you have four people and three cheeses, you would serve 400g in total and about 130g of each. Over Christmas it is very handy to have some extra in the fridge for unexpected visitors or lazy days when you just don’t feel like cooking. If there are leftover cheeses, never waste them. Larger pieces can be rewrapped and put back into the fridge for next time. For smaller pieces chop into small cubes and freeze in a bag or tub. These can be added to any dish that call for cheese such as on top of a pizza or in a bake.

Any serving or accompaniment tips?

Try not to serve your cheese straight from the fridge, as when cheese is very cold the flavours are subdued. Simply remove the cheeses from the fridge twenty or thirty minutes before serving.

A great cheeseboard is not only about the cheeses but how you use complementary flavours and texture to make the whole experience more interesting and fun. The right accompaniments can really turn your cheese board into something special.

Good crackers are a necessity, and combining these with fresh bread is even better.

A tasty chutney is an ideal accompaniment, too. Its sweet and sharpness cuts across the cheeses and brings out new flavours. A second alternative chutney or relish is therefore a great idea. If you are serving the board as a meal in itself add some cured meats; cold sliced turkey and or ham work perfectly; a salad and maybe some fresh fruit and nuts. Don’t be afraid to try interesting and new combinations.

One of the best aspects of a cheeseboard is that it is a sharing plate, where everyone can try all or just the ones they like. Arrange the cheeses and accompaniments on a large wooden board or plate. Add some colour using fruit or chopped veg such as red apple or carrot sticks. Some small bowls for the chutney looks great. A basket with crackers and or bread that can be passed around works really well.

A Simply Better Cheeseboard for Christmas

Simply Better Cropwell Bishop Stilton

A creamy, rich blue cheese that’s perfect at this time of year

Simply Better Mature Comté

This French hard cheese is sweet and nutty; guaranteed to please everyone

Simply Better Irish Farmhouse Wicklow Bán

The Hempenstall family’s wonderful mild but rich camembert style cheese. Always remember to include at least one of our great Irish farmhouse cheeses

Simply Better Mature Killeen Goat’s Cheese

Some people think that goat’s cheese has divisive flavour, but this very special cheese from Co Galway is full flavoured and smooth but very approachable

Simply Better Irish Farmhouse Durrus Og

A classic Irish farmhouse cheese from West cork with a silky soft texture and a gentle earthiness

Simply Better Italian Truffle Pecorino Cheese

Add some opulence to your board with this decadent mix of mild Italian sheep’s milk cheese and aromatic truffle.

Simply Better Handmade Apple & Fig Chutney

This chutney will match with every cheese, but bring out different flavours in each.

Simply Better Beetroot & Pink Onion Relish

This is the perfect winter relish and the sweet beetroot will contrast beautifully with your cheeses.

All products by Dunnes Stores Simply Better, at Dunnes Stores nationwide